Tenacatita, Barra Lagoon, La Culebra, Barra Proper, and Melaque

22Feb -11Mar 2021

We open with this fuzzy photo of an art installation that water vessels pass when traveling between Chamela and Tenacatita. It sits near the edge of the cliff of Farallon overlooking the waters below. This magnificent artwork is La Copa del Sol. “Gian Franco Brignone, the founder of Costa Careyes, dreamt of a man and a woman united by the cosmos while bathed in the light of the setting sun. In 2006, the manifestations of his dream were created.” The Copa represents the women. The grandeur can be seen from a mile plus away with its 35 feet height and diameter of over 88 feet wide. At the right angle when the sun is setting, it looks as if the sun falls directly into the Copa. Here is another of many write-ups about this private and dreamy location.

Tenacatita

Another anchorage we enjoy because it has a neighborly sense to it.  Having visited this anchorage several times before, we are comforted with knowing we will probably leave here with friends with whom we’ll keep in touch.  It is the Tenacatita magic, the charm, folks open to inviting all to hang, play bocce ball and Mexican train, walk the beach, and have a bonfire.  We even hosted and spontaneous dinghy happy hour off the back of our boat. The simple fact that we got three other boats to visit on our second day is a testament to the camaraderie and community that gives Tenacatita its reputation.

Most of us paddled to the beach for the bonfire gathering. The time together was great. There is something relaxing sitting in front of a crackling fire; it calms us all down. It is really an enjoyable way to spend the evening and end our day, and certainly can change the tone of anyone’s day.

La Manzanilla

Yet, another small town quaint town across the Manzanilla Bay from Tenacatita beach is La Manzanilla, aka La Manz.  You can get to this town by dinghy or taxi.  We shared a taxi with Chip and Debbie, of SV Elegant Sea, who knew of a ‘back road’ showing farms and homes. 

We walked the town, discovered a new coffee shop, had lunch at a new-to-us restaurant that we are now fans of, and meandered back to the agreed meeting spot to taxi back to Tenacatita.

A typical-looking, well-stocked tienda where we have mastered shopping. Many of them are set up pretty much the same as others. A tortilleria shop where you pick up 1 kilo of fresh ‘within the hour’ tortillas for $19pesos/$.95us. We are telling you, once you go fresh, you don’t go back to store-bought preservative tortillas.

Chris is just taking in the good life of relaxing. Pole in hand, breeze in his face, the weather is comfortable, and the fish are down there somewhere.

Do you see the crane? it’s evening, and it’s visiting the boat, sitting on the dinghy that is hoisted up on the stern.

All good visits must come to a pause. It is time to move on.

Photo credit: Eric on SV Annabelle Lee

We sailed into the Tenacatita anchorage and six days later, we sailed out.  The wind angle is in our favor and we sail south-southwest along the Playa Manzanilla (the Manzanilla Beach). Using only the Genoa headsail we are getting 4.5 kts.  Relaxed and taking in the views we catch on the horizon a couple of large whales half a mile off our starboard beam.  Off our Portside, the beach is lined with rustic palapas and casitas dot the hillside. The colorful umbrellas are dotted along the beach and a lovely surf to the shore finishes the scene.

After we tacked west, we leave Manzanilla Bay and head offshore about four miles.  Our objective was to get out far enough to tack south and sail directly to Barra. After we tacked and sailed for about 60 minutes at 3.5 kts and 9 nm to go, we noted we wouldn’t make the lagoon in Barra before sunset.  Dang it, we have to start the motor.  We motor sail across the Manzanilla Bay, passing Cuastecomate and Melaque, then into the entrance of Barra de Navidad.  If anyone reading this recognizes what we passed, you’ll note that before we tacked south, we were sailing WNW.  We knew it too but were enjoying the amazing sailing. Moving consistently between 5-7.5 kts was fun.  We named that day The Longest Short Day of Sailing.

The gateway to many wonderful times

Barra Lagoon

Very early on our first morning, I wake up and immediately notice the stillness, the air, the boat, the surrounding area.  Nothing is moving or making a noise.  I lay still.  Listening to the stillness.  Then I hear a rooster.  A panga motor.  I know from the direction of the dog barking, we have swung and now facing southeast. The stillness of the boat. No rocking or rolling.  As if we are on land.  Small birds land on our foredeck lifelines delicately singing to the morning.  Still absorbing the stillness.  I feel quiet.  I lay. I am smiling.  Ever so grateful to have learned to stay and listen and observe the stillness.  

Barra Lagoon is located about .33 miles southwest of the Barra de Navidad Resort Hotel.  The lagoon is shallow and wide.  Mangroves fence the south and west sides.  And a very small private island to our north. The deepest location in the lagoon can be 14-15 feet but the average is 9-10 feet.  We anchored in 8 feet.  Our draft (keel) is 6 feet.  Yes, that gives us two feet of the variable with the changing tides and we had 0.8 feet as our lowest. It’s all good.

La Culebra

Just across the lagoon sits the small town of La Culebra.  From the lagoon, sitting in our cockpit or the foredeck, you can imagine the simple life of the town.  We are curious about it so we plan the day to visit. We dinghy ride to the resort hotel, park and tie the dinghy to the designated dinghy dock, and wander around the resort grounds.  The grounds are inviting with walking paths lined with trees and flowering bushes, swimming pools with slides, and a sand beach. 

We walk the road and find the one main street of La Culebra.  It really is a small and quaint town with a couple of tiendas, a sushi restaurant, a primary school, a few nice homes weaved in between traditional casitas, and a second larger restaurant with a view of the lagoon and Barra proper. A short walk and a short panga will get you to Barra for essentials.  

To say we walked all the roads and streets would be saying back in the days you have “all the Boston albums” (when there were two to own).  We covered most of the town, taking in the details, in all of 30 minutes.  And that is when I noticed the star fruit tree.  

These surprisingly superfoods are an abundance in this town. After tasting these tropical fruit, we wished we picked more than three. The keep very well and deliver a mild sweet flavor and texture similar to green apple and/or pear. Star fruit is low in calories and sugar but packed with fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin C. So if you haven’t tried a Star Fruit, we encourage you to find them and give them a try.

The French Baker

He really tries to wait patiently but he basically paces the deck with a lookout of when Jean comes in our direction.
What remains from the deliver the day before.

Once you have eaten a freshly baked french pastry in a quiet lagoon setting with the birds singing above, you will know you are living the good life and doing something right.  The French Baker has been delivering delectable french pastries to the Barra Marina and Lagoon from his boat for many years.  Baked every morning in Jean’s bakery shop located in Barra, he loads up his custom panga, bell included, and motors down a canal to the marina first then to the lagoon second.  Oh, I bet you are thinking, ah, if you are in the lagoon, you don’t have as many choices.  All is well because we learned last season to place an order the day before and your choices of deliciousness get set aside!  

Meet Jéan of The French Baker. Oh My. Look at the delicious treats to choose from. And notice two empty trays after selling at the Marina. That is why we put in a order the day before.

Barra Proper and Melaque

When in Tenacatita, we were finishing up a few books and passing them to folks before our daily Bocce Ball games.  Our new cruiser friends, Debbie and Chip on SV Elegant Sea, shared about a book exchange in Barra and that it’s a must-see. Ooh, something new to see in Barra, that is exciting.  One would not find Beer Bob’s Book Exchange unless you were directed to it or told about it.  It is truly off the beaten path yet very easy to find. And what a gift of a find it was.

There is no English library in Barra, so in 1983 Robert L. Baham, a retired civil servant from California, started a book exchange.  Bob started the exchange as a social hub for English speakers and use to hand out free beer to all who dropped by, hence the nickname.

Melaque

This photo as was pulled from a tourist website.

It’s Wednesday and we want to head to the Melaque Wednesday Market. So we need to catch a bus.  Catching any bus in a Mexico town for the first time can be a bit worrisome.  The ‘bus’ know locally as the colectivo will be a minivan, a shuttle van, or a small bus. The bus rides run between 16-30 pesos (.80-1.50 us) per person.

So here’s some fun tips I’ve learned while taking the bus into town:

  1. For starters, particularly in the smaller towns, there is rarely anything resembling a sign indicating a bus stop, bus routes, or times for that matter. I usually just stand around by a small bunch of nice-looking senoras. If the nice ladies catch a bus, then I know I too am at least close to the right spot.
  2. You can also just wave down a bus anywhere. Most of the time they’ll pull over and pick you up if there’s room. Everybody toots their horn or flashes their lights to see if you need a lift.
  3. The busses usually have their stops painted on the windshield. Mucho importante – that just means those are the stops, they may or may not be in any actual order.
  4. You know you have a good bus if the windshield is cracked, all the good ones are. And don’t worry, every single bus is underwritten by the Virgene Maria de Guadalupe.
  5. Sientate, esta tranquilo y disfruta! If you’re lucky, you’ll get the bucket seat that faces backward so you can make new friends. When I say bucket seat I don’t mean ’74 Camaro, I mean Home Depot with a cushion.
  6. Lastly – Bajo, por favor! . Your phone will tell that means short, but it really means “Hey, would you mind pulling over here, I need to go home, to the ATM, the OXXO, etc.” It’s much better in context than “Adonde esta la parada del autobus Usted?!” That last bit just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
  7. It is important to keep a good sense of humor and ‘roll with it’, or you will be walking – A LOT!

Gone in 60 Seconds – Part II

So using all of our handy tips noted above, we take the quick trip from Barra over to Melaque to hit the tiengues and the ATM. We need mas pesos, and Chris is still on the lookout for Point Break and G.I. Jane on DVD.

The following events happen in chronological order.

09:57:01 AM – We realize the bus is not going anywhere near where we thought it was taking us. It is, in fact, slowly turning back to go to Barra.

09:57:03 AM – Chris yells, “BAJO, por Favor!” from the back of the bus. And just like magic, the bus pulls over and drops us off on the side of the road. (See …?!)

09:57:20 AM – As we’re standing on the side of the road getting our bearings, Carrie yells “Oh Sh-t!”. Highly trained now, I immediately look for a whale.

09:57:21 AM – “No … my iPhone, … I left my phone on the bus!”

Editor’s note: the log is clearly missing a few seconds here. It is in those few seconds where I think … : “Didn’t you just lose your phone in Perula … ?” Then my survival instinct kicks in (the same instinct that keeps my head securely attached to my torso), and I find myself unable to produce verbal speech for ~ four seconds.

09:57:25 AM – The bus is now through the three-way intersection and merrily on its way back to Barra de Navidad.

09:57:26 AMI commence setting a new 50-yard dash record, through an uncrowded three-way intersection, wearing a backpack, in flip-flops.

09:57:46 AM – About 35 yards in, I blow a flip-flop. The left one. I know it was the left one because it skittered across the road, opposite traffic, went under a car and stopped somewhere out of my peripheral vision.

A sideline viewer could also denote the change in sound as I ruffled their hair when I blew past them; from FLIP-FLIP-FLIP-FLIP-FLIP-FLIP-FLIP (at speed) to SWWAAP-FLIP-SWWAAP-FLIP-SWWAAP-FLIP-SWWAAP-FLIP-SWWAAP-FLIP.

09:57:56 AM – The bus got away. By inches. And because I’m so in shape from all the David Hassellhoff-ing I do on the beach everyday, I quickly catch my breath after going 0 to 50.

09:57:59 AM – This guy pulls up in his four-door dune buggy, skidding a little onto the shoulder. With Carrie in the front seat.

09:58:00 AM – Still incapable of human speech, I wave them off. They do an all-wheel-drive burn out to go chase the bus down.

Ends up, our Good Samaritan had caught most of our antics. From afar, he thought I, Chris, had taken off with Carrie’s backpack.

Together they were able to track down the bus, pull in front of it, hop aboard, and retrieve Carrie’s phone. It was sitting exactly where she had left it on her seat.

The Canadian Dune Buggy Couple also had a pair of cute dogs along for the ride.

Phew!

After all those shenanigans, we returned to our favorite cafe in Melaque, Taza Negra. A musician rolls in with his xylophone and plays a light tune for everyone’s enjoyment. Afterward, we moosey around town looking for a bus top to return to Barra.

We repeated our transportation in reverse order, stopped at the dock for a refreshing drink, then headed back to the boat again.

The usual random photos from this leg of the trip that don’t fit in our storytelling but we enjoy anyway.

As always, we’re grateful if you’ve scrolled this far down.

Chris & Carrie

SV Dharma Girl

currently lying Marina Palmira, La Paz BCS. Monday 03-May-2021.

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